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This App Translates The Meaning Of Classical Music

But psst, we can still see you playing Angry Birds from the balcony.

Let’s admit it: when most of us spend a night at the orchestra or ballet, we have little to no clue what’s going on. So we find ourselves shyly inspecting the Playbill, trying to recall which movement we’re in, and just what the heck that movement means to the larger piece on whole.

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LiveNote might be our solution. It’s an iPhone an Android app that listens along to a live performance and annotates the experience. Built by Drexel’s Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center in conjunction with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Livenote is essentially a virtual Playbill that tracks the live progression of a song with a visual timeline. As critical or notable parts of the composition are played, the pops up notes that might explain anything from the historical significance of a movement to the subtle reprisal of a melody you should be listening for. It can even provide subtitles to an opera.

In order to keep audience distractions to a minimum, the screen remains black, providing information in grey type to cut down on ambient glow. That’s not to say it wouldn’t still bother the person next to you–particularly because the app’s main screen is always in motion. A marker slides automatically across the timeline during a song, and new pieces of information swoop onto screen through a fairly aggressive animation. I can’t help but wonder if a subtler crossfading effect, or a UI without any moving pieces, might have appeared technically less impressive but provided a more complementary experience to the music.

But as Drexel’s own press release is quick to point out, the Philadelphia Orchestra doesn’t exactly shy away from technological experiences. They were the first orchestra to make an electronic recording, be televised in national broadcast, and livestream a concert online. Livenote has the opportunity to democratize the experience of listening to a live orchestra, without simply pandering to the audience with music they already know. (Beethoven’s Fifth, anyone?)

The first Livenote concert debuts on Oct 14th.

Read more here.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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